The Bills come in to the Metrodome on Sunday with nothing to lose and a whole lot of confidence.
Even Stevie Johnson. You know, the poor receiver who dropped that ball in the endzone on Sunday? (Along with, no joke, about five other passes in the game.)
This is a different team from the one that was getting hammered as recently as October. Ever since the bye week, the Bills have been reborn. I realize that sounds a bit ridiculous for a 2-9 team, but it's true. Check out their past six games:
Those four losses are to teams that are a combined 18 games over .500. The Bills had about 13 chances to win the game Sunday, including Johnson's drop. This is a well-run team that is hypercompetitive. Snooze and you will lose to these guys.
Here's why. Short on talent, long on heart, the Bills don't beat themselves, at least not lately. They are 10th in penalty-yardage differential and have been on the plus side of the ledger in terms of turnovers the past six games. QB Ryan Fitzpatrick is prone to some boneheaded throws, but the Vikings have made only nine interceptions on the season. RB Fred Jackson has been on a mission lately, running for 308 yards and three TDs and catching 14 passes for 154 yards and two TDs the past three games.
The epitome of their effort was summed up beautifully in the effort from NT Kyle Williams, who was an absolute madman, leading the way in an assault of Ben Roethlisberger. They knocked him around all day, and he suffered a foot injury. Are you listening, Brett Favre? How strange would it be if the Bills delivered a knockout blow to Favre on Sunday? Not that weird if you have watched this team hustle and scratch and claw the last month and a half.
If the Bills have a clear weakness, it's the run defense. So the status of Adrian Peterson clearly is crucial. If his ankle sprain won't allow him to play, it's a big loss. Nothing against Toby Gerhart, who played well in relief on Sunday, but Peterson most certainly would have 150-yard (or more) potential in any normal circumstances. Even during this strong run of theirs, the Bills have allowed Jamaal Charles to run for 177 yards, Cedric Benson for 124 and Rashard Mendenhall for 151.
There are finally some good vibes around the Vikings. Leslie Frazier has calmed things down. He has the team focused on finishing strong. There's less infighting, less drama. Frazier, unlike his predecessor, is well-liked, for whatever it's worth. Sunday's road win was a nice first step back toward respectability.
So it's imperative the Vikings capitalize on this positive direction. They might not have much to play for at this point outside of pride, but if they need any reminder of how that is to be done, all they need do is look at the opposite sideline. The Bills are putting on a clinic in pride.